The doctrine of the incarnation of God in Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity. Since the inception of the church authentic believers have confessed the deity of Jesus Christ. Simply stated, we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is the Lord from glory (that is His deity). His human name is Jesus, which means Jehovah saves, or simply Savior. And He is the promised Messiah, the anointed one, and thus in our Greek NT he is called the Christ.
He is the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who follow the Spirit of God (the Spirit of truth) confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. The Bible says in 1 John chapter four:
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world . . . hereby we recognize the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
In these verses the apostle John is certainly referencing his teaching in the first chapter of his gospel. He begins his gospel by revealing, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then he declares, “And the Word was made flesh (that is, he took to himself human nature in the person of Jesus the Christ) and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.”
Thus, John insists those who refuse to confess the unique nature of Jesus Christ are not of God. The spirit of error denies the deity of Jesus the Christ. This is the spirit of antichrist that manifests in the world through all sorts of false spirituality.
However, we confess that Jesus the Christ is the Lord of glory. Thus, we call him the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now let's continue our examination of the incarnation of God in Christ as we consider 1 Timothy 3:14-16. The passage reads as follows:
14These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
15But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
Let’s begin by noting Paul’s desire to come to Timothy. Timothy was a younger minister of the gospel serving in the office of pastor. He received much training from the apostle and in the opening verses of this epistle Paul refers to Timothy as his son in the faith.
Paul hoped to see Timothy again, however, he wrote this epistle and sent it to Timothy so that he might know how to behave in the house of God. Look again at verse 15 where Paul says:
“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
You should take note of the reference to the local church as the house of God. Local churches corporately comprise the church of the living God. If you are saved, then you are a part of the church of the living God. You are a part of the greater body of Christ that finds expression in local assemblies of believers. Every believer should be connected to a local, Bible believing church where they can grow in Christ and serve the Lord.
Notice also, the important statement at the end of verse 15. The Bible says the church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the truth. If you want to know the truth, then you must turn to the church of the living God to get it! The authentic church is the steward of the truth of God’s word, and it is the steward of the truth as it is in Jesus.
With that said, the apostle immediately turns his attention to the cornerstone of all truth, namely the incarnation of God in Christ. He says in verse 16:
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
Now let’s follow the outline the Holy Spirt provides us in this verse. First, He says there is no question that great is the mystery of godliness. The word mystery in this verse speaks of a hidden truth now revealed. The truth is fully revealed since the coming of Christ into the world. Thus, the verse proceeds to detail the manifestation of the mystery of godliness.
First, the Bible says, “God was manifest in the flesh.” We use the word incarnation to communicate this great truth. During the Christmas season our minds naturally turn to that time some 2000 years ago when God sent forth his Son made of a woman.
We must remember that God sent his Son into the world. The eternal Word (a specific title for Jesus, the Son of God) left his Father’s side and veiled his eternal position within the Godhead taking to himself a human nature in the person of Jesus the Christ.
Thus, Jesus the promised Messiah was God manifest in the flesh. Jesus was truly man, and he was truly God in one person. The miracle of the virgin conception occurred when Mary was found with child of the Holy Spirit. This miracle clothed the eternal Word with the human nature of Jesus. Thus, Jesus is unique. He is one-of-a-kind. He is the only begotten Son of God. As such, he is God manifest in the flesh.
The wonder of Christmas lies in the truth of the incarnation of God in Christ. How can it be that the Almighty could be wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger as a helpless infant child?
Humbly God came into our world in the person of Jesus the Christ. The incarnation of God in Christ was an act of great humiliation. He stooped from the glory of heaven’s throne to become the second Adam. In the person of Jesus, the Christ, God donned the clothing of perfect, sinless humanity.
In so doing He emptied himself of the privileges of His intrinsic deity. He laid aside the outer clothes that normally manifested his glory so he could function as a humble foot washer. Indeed, he made himself of no reputation but took upon himself the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men.
Our Lord tells us exactly why he so humbled himself: “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.” Why did the Father prepare for him a body? A body prepared him to be the sacrifice for the sin of the world.
The Son of God humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. By which we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
At the cross God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself (2 Cor. 5:19). Upon the cross he bore our sins in his body. His death upon the cross was for us. Upon the cross he, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man.
God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself by virtue of his infinite sacrifice. Yes, he must be a man to redeem Adam’s race, but he must be God to pay the infinite price required by Divine justice.
I say thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift—the gift of his beloved Son!
Thank God unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. He came for us. He came with a passion to do his Father’s will and he came with a passion to redeem his people.
And so, in time he was justified in the Spirit. The mighty works he did as the perfect Spirit-filled Son of man confirmed his identity as the Christ, the Son of God.
Upon the cross he offered himself through the eternal Spirit without spot to God. And then three days after his burial in a borrowed tomb he was fully vindicated by the Holy Spirit when God raised him from the dead. (Somebody say Amen!)
Furthermore, as our text states, he was seen of angels through-out his sojourn in this world. The angels watched in awe as the Son of God was born in the little town of Bethlehem. The Father gave them the cue and with the announcement of the angel to the shepherds heralding the birth of the Savior suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
The angels watched over him in his youth and through-out his journey to the cross. Indeed, he gave his angels charge over him, to keep him in all his ways. They bore him up in their hands, lest he dash his foot against a stone.
Later in the garden an angel came and strengthened Jesus so he could continue to the cross. And no doubt the angels waited for the summon from the Savior as he hung on the cross. Just one word from the Savior and they would have freed him. But he never prayed the Father to send them. Rather, he endured the cross. He endured the hour of darkness wherein his soul was made an offering for sin.
The angels watched him die, but they also watched his resurrection. In fact, the angel of the Lord rolled away the stone. Not so Jesus could get out, but so we could get in to see that he is not there, but he is risen as he said!
With joy the angel says to us, “why seek ye the living among the dead, come see the place where Jesus laid. He is not here, but he is risen.”
Today he is still preached unto the Gentiles. Today he is still believed upon in this world. And today he is still received up into glory. As the apostle Peter says in Acts chapter three, “Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
He is now in glory. The humble babe, Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, is now seated by the Father from whence he shall return in great power and glory.
Exalt him during this Christmas season and through-out the year!